Tyranny and sexual abuse in the Catholic Church: A Jesuit tragedy by "Adfero," appeared on the traditionalist blog Rorate Caeli in the aftermath of the McCarrick saga in 2018. It's central thesis is that the roots of the crisis lie, at least in part, of a tyrannical understanding of obedience, divorced from reason and law, that goes back to the 14th century nominalism of Ockham, but especially to a conception of obedience to one's religious superior that can only be called blind, in the writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola. In its original setting, as a military-style training in obedience and discipline for the "shock troops" of the Counter Reformation, for priests who would be working in far flung mission fields, this helped keep a focus on the mission for which they were sent. Divorced from this context, however, this conception of obedience gave rise to a culture of tyrannical, unquestioning obedience to religious superiors, that lent itself to abuse, and spread throughout the Counter Reformation church, and was passed on in seminary formation. This led to an infantilization of clergy, and also of the laity. Other factors (canon law, the longer tradition of the Church, philosophy, customs of religious orders) kept this tyrannical tendency in check, which, while crippling the Church, didn't prove fatal ...
Do note that this is a description from a traditionalist blog. Which, again, goes to show that facile stereotypes are just that ... facile, and misleading.
I was reminded, while reading this piece, of the description of the dominant "morality of obligation" that arose in the post-Reformation Church, given by the great Dominican moral theologian, Servais Pinckaers. In his invaluable "The Sources of Christian Ethics," he writes,
... in this view of morality, the question of obligation isn't one question among man. It is the question, even the only question.
He continues that this conception of morality as having to do only with obligation spread over all of Catholic culture.
Originating in manuals intended for the education of the clergy, this idea of morality spread to the people during recent centuries through homilies and catechisms. It created an image of the priest as one who taught what we should and should not do, with the accent on sins to be avoided. This was its outstanding feature.
(Do also note, this isn't to say that the priest has no role in teaching his people about morals. However his rulings do not determine what is good or evil! "Father says so" isn't a sufficient reason for things to be the way they are!)
In fact, while this view of the priesthood seems to have largely vanished in English-speaking US Catholic culture, I do find strong vestiges of it still dominant in various Spanish-speaking and other immigrant Catholic cultures in the US.
And, in my own formation and training, I've encountered an attitude of submission towards one's spiritual director that isn't, at least in its form, very different from what "Adfredo" describes as tyrannical. While my own experience of this has been anything but ... one only needs to think of some of the cases now coming to light of the abuse of spiritual authority, such as the shocking revelations of the life of L'Arche founder Jean Vanier, which are rooted and abetted by this view.
One can see how a view of morality reduced solely to obligation, combined with the thesis of a tyrannical view of obedience to religious superiors, was a potent mix, rife for all kinds of abuse. As both the author of the Rorate piece, as well as Pinckaers, note, what one saw in the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council was a massive backlash against this view, leading to the chaos of the post-Conciliar years, and a still entrenched antinomian mindset. The rise of a lax approach to sexual morality, combined with a still extant tyrannical view of authority, however, was a perfect storm for both the toleration of sexual abuse and its cover up.
"Adfredo's" counsel at the end of his piece is salutary ... a thoroughgoing reform ...
Part of the progressive ideology was the falsity and harmfulness of traditional Catholic sexual teaching; the effect of this tenet on the sexual abuse crisis need not be laboured. But it would be a mistake to think that progressivism as such is responsible for this crisis, and that its defeat would solve the problem. The roots of the crisis go further back, and require a reform of attitudes to law and authority in every part of the Church.